The Service Under The Old Covenant

The Service Under The Old Covenant

The priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship.
–Hebrews 9:6

In Hebrews 9, the writer was showing that Christ is superior to the Old Testament priests. First, he talked about the ministry of the priests: “When these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship” (9:6). Day after day, the priests would enter the courtyard of the temple. They would go to the bronze altar and offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. They would go into the Holy Place and change the oil in the golden lampstand and change the showbread. Every day of the year, they were busy in ministry. A priest’s work was never done, which is why there was no place to sit down in the temple.

Starting in verse 7, the writer focused on what the high priest did: “Into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.” Even though the priests made daily sacrifices for the sins of the people, there needed to be a sacrifice for unintentional or forgotten sins. That was what the high priest did. He entered the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement.

Leviticus 16 records what happened on the Day of Atonement. First, the high priest would sacrifice a bull he had purchased himself and then take the blood into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for his own sins. After making that sacrifice for his own sins, he would go to the courtyard, where two goats would be waiting for him. They would draw lots for which goat would die and which goat would live. The one that was chosen to die would be sacrificed, and the high priest would take the blood of that goat back into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it on the mercy seat, the golden lid of the ark. Why would he do that? Here is the picture: God was looking down on His Law, which had been broken, and demanded judgment against His people. When the high priest sprinkled blood on that lid, no longer would God see His broken Law; He would see the blood of that innocent animal covering the transgressions of God’s people.

Once the high priest had finished that, he went back into the courtyard to the living goat, called the scapegoat. He would place his hands on the head of that goat and confess the sins of the people. Then that goat would be released into the wilderness, symbolizing God removing His people’s sin from them. The first goat paid the price for their sin. The second goat removed their sin. That was the picture of the Day of Atonement.

The writer of Hebrews said all these things were a shadow of what the true Lamb of God would do for us, “since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation” (9:10). All these ceremonies foreshadowed what Christ would do for us. The word “reformation” means “a straightening out of that which is crooked or bent.” That is what Christ came to do. I think of the story of the man who hurt his arm. The doctor did an x-ray and said, “Your arm is broken. It needs to be set and put in a cast to heal.” The man said, “How much will that cost?” The doctor said, “$1,500.” The man said, “What would it cost to have you touch up the x-rays?” That is a good picture of what the writer of Hebrews was talking about. The Old Testament sacrificial system did not change the human condition; it just touched up the x-rays. We needed somebody to straighten out that which was crooked inside each one of us. And that is exactly what Christ came to do for us.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Memo To Jerry Jones” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.